Phoenix: No Current City Facilities Suitable For Migrant Families

Published: Friday, June 28, 2019 - 2:35pm
Updated: Friday, June 28, 2019 - 4:34pm
Christina Estes/KJZZ
During the Phoenix City Council's June 5, 2019, meeting, Carolyn O'Connor requested the city provide an air conditioned intake center for migrant families during the summer.

As humanitarian groups work to turn a former Phoenix elementary school into a temporary shelter for migrant families, the city publicly responds to requests for help. The one page response comes three weeks after women from two aid groups pleaded for the city to help families seeking asylum.

During the council’s June 5 meeting, Carolyn O’Connor with a coalition called Uncage and Reunite Families asked the city to provide an air conditioned facility to serve as an intake center at least for the summer.

“As the temperature continues to rise we are concerned this is a fatality waiting to happen,” she said.

For months, federal authorities have been releasing migrant families in Phoenix and other cities. Volunteers and faith-based groups have stepped up to provide shelter, food and other services to asylum seeking families.

In its report to the council, the Human Services Department says Phoenix does not have suitable facilities for an overnight or day respite center without displacing existing city programming or requiring significant time and money. The report says the city is actively engaged with groups to assist in developing solutions. When requested, it says heat respite supplies have been provided by the city.

On July 2, aid groups will appear before a city zoning adjustment hearing officer to request the former Ann Ott Elementary School south of downtown be allowed to serve as a temporary shelter. The school near 12th street and Mohave has been closed for years. The Phoenix Elementary School District No. 1 owns the building and, as reported by KJZZ’s Matthew Casey, it has been working with the International Rescue Committee and others to convert the school into a shelter.

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Here’s the full June 27 report to the City Council:

Citizen Request: Ms. Carolyn O'Connor and Ms. Sarah Erie 
This report provides the City Council with information in response to comments made by Ms. Carolyn O'Connor and Ms. Sarah Erie at the June 5, 2019 Formal City Council meeting.

Ms. O’Connor and Ms. Erie requested that the City provide a designated drop-off area, basic services and shelter at an intake center to asylum seekers released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during the summer months.

The City of Phoenix is actively engaged with the non-profit and faith-based community to help study this complex issue, provide advice and assist in developing solutions that will benefit all stakeholders. When requested, heat respite supplies have been provided through the City's Heat Relief Program.

At this time, Council has not authorized dedicated financial resources or facilities to this effort. In addition, the City does not have facilities suitable for an overnight or day respite center without displacing existing City programming or requiring significant time and money for rehabilitation of the facilities. The City will continue to look to community experts and coordinators providing services to asylum seekers to determine how best to support this ongoing need.

Responsible Department

This item is submitted by Assistant City Manager Deanna Jonovich and the Human Services Department.

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In June, Mayor Kate Gallego released the following statement to KJZZ:

"The plight of asylum seekers in our city is a direct reflection of inaction on the part of the federal government. Washington D.C. continues to turn a blind eye to this crisis, as cities and states are left to deal with the damage caused by their inability to address the situation.

Phoenix is actively engaging with community groups that are working with asylum seekers. The faith-based groups and non-profits that have been tirelessly working on this issue deserve immense credit. The city is bringing people together to help study this complex issue and we are developing solutions that will benefit everyone in our community.

With temperatures already hitting triple digits, the danger faced by these asylum seekers continues to rise. We know that heat can be deadly. The summer weather in Phoenix adds another layer of complexity to a situation that was already challenging. Phoenix does have an active heat relief program that provides air-conditioned areas and water to everyone, regardless of citizenship status.

We will continue to talk with our community partners and work to find solutions for this crisis."


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